Seattle Mariners’ Jesse Winker celebrates with Julio Rodriguez, left, after hitting a two-run home run against the Oakland Athletics in the top of the fifth inning at the Oakland Coliseum on Wed Jun 22, 2022 (AP News photo)
Seattle. 9. 13. 0
Oakland. 0. 7. 0
Wednesday, June 22, 2022
By Lewis Rubman
OAKLAND–In 1954, the first year since 1948 in which the Yankees didn’t win the American League pennant–in fact, they won the World Series all those years– Douglas Wallop published a novel that soon became a hit Broadway musical and later a box office smash from Hollywood. That prophetic novel bore the prophetic title “The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant,” and its adaptations were heralded as “Damn Yankees!”
All of you know the story. Joe Hardy, a middle aged realtor from Washington, DC, makes a deal with the devil to become Shoeless Joe From Hannibal, Mo, the second coming of Joe Jackson.
A turning point comes when Joe, a lifelong fan of the Senators –who earned the motto “Washington, first in war, first in peace, and last in the American League”– playing for his favorite team, feels remorseful after breaking up a no hitter being pitched by Bobby Shantz. To keep Joe from opting out of his contract, the devil summons the temptress Lola, who confidently announces, “Whatever Lola Wants, Lola Gets.”
Shantz was a lefty who pitched for the Philadelphia and Kansas City A’s from 1949 through 1956 and didn’t have the chance to pitch for a good ball club until he joined the Yankees in 1957. Nonetheless, he managed to go 24-7,2.48 for the 1952 A’s, a team that went 79-75-1. accounting for an astounding 30% of Philadelphia’s wins.
I often think of Bobby Shantz when, as happened tonight, Paul Blackburn is the A’s starting pitcher. His win share doesn’t match Shantz’s feat of 70 years ago, much less Ned Garver’s achievement of 1951, when he went 20-12, 3.73 for the 52-102 St. Louis Browns, but with 26% of Oakland’s 23 victories at game time, Blackburn is worthy of their company, especially in the light of the expansion of rotations between the early 1950s and early 2020s.
Game recap: And let’s not forget that the season’s still young. When the game was over and Seattle had defeated Oakland by the resounding score of 9-0, Blackburn was the losing pitcher and has a record of 6-3, 2.97, while the A’s, who took the field at 23-45 were 23-46.
Blackburn had lasted only four plus innings and was charged with seven runs, all earned, on 10 hits, two walks, and a wild pitch. Of his 92 deliveries, 58 were counted as strikes, but he still was credited with 26% of his team’s wins.
The Mariners’ starting pitcher, George Kirby, didn’t come to the Coliseum with any historical, literary, or show biz baggage of which I’m aware, just a more than respectable 1-2, 2.56 record with a fourth place team in a five team division.
The 24 year old righty hadn’t started a major league game before this year. He pitched the first five innings of the May 24 game against Oakland at T-Mobile Field, getting a no decision in the A’s 7-5 win, allowing four runs, all earned, on eight hits, including a homer, and striking out nine without walking anyone.
He left tonight’s contest after hurling six shutout frames, holding Oakland to five hits and a walk. He struck out six and brought his record to 2-2,3.12, throwing 96 pitches, for strikes, in the process.
The game started inauspiciously for the home team. JP Crawford led off with a line drive to center that fell in for a single. Ramón Laureano dropped the ball, and Crawford advanced to second. For some reason the scorer ruled it a double.
Two batters later, Julio Rodríguez smacked a 92 mph sinker over Laureano’s head and on a hop over the dead center field fence, scoring Crawford. In spite of a subsequent walk and wild pitch, Blackbourn got himself out of the jam, and the A’s came up for their first at bats trailing by only 1-0.
Blackburn coughed up another tally with two down in the second and Cal Raleigh, batting in the ninth position with an average of .185 (.183 from the left side) tore the leather off of another 92mph slider from the A’s righty. This one didn’t bounce, coming down 416 feet deep, over the fence in center to double the Mariners’ lead.
France led off the third with a single to left center and was forced out at second on Nick Allen’s nifty backhanded grab and throw of a Rodríguez grounder to the left side. Rodríguez proceeded to steal second and score on Jesse Winker’s single to right center.
After Blackburn fanned Eugenio Suárez for the second out, Winker made it to third on Taylor Trammell´s high bouncer down the right field foul line that Stephen Vogt, playing first, leaped for but couldn’t come down with.
It went for another double. Justin Upton walked to clog the basebaths, but Blackburn struck out Adam Frazier and once more limited the Mariners to a single run. But that run made it 3-0, Seattle.
The visitors made up for not scoring in the fourth by adding five runs to their lead in the fifth. After Rodríguez’s lead off single to right center, Winker unloaded on a changeup to blast his sixth round-tripper of the year. This one went 422 feet into the right field seats.
Blackburn stuck around long enough to give up a single to Suárez and a double to Trammell before ceding to Domingo Tapia. The reliever caught Upton looking at a third strike, but Frazier reached first when his grounder to short allowed Suárez to cross the plate. After Raleigh went down swinging, Crawford drove Trammell and Frazier in with a double to right center.
All of Tapia’s inherited runners had scored, putting the M’s up 8-zip. They added another run in the seventh on a single by the pinch hitting Abraham Toro and a double to the also pinch hitting Kevin Padlo, after which Lou Trivino came on to close out the frame.
Austin Pruitt set the M’s down in order in the eighth.
Penn Murfee was on the mound for the Seattle when the A’s came to bat after the seventh inning stretch shut them down, allowing only a single to Vogt. He was followed by Tommy Milone in the eighth, who set the Athletics down to a conga beat–one, two, three, kick– and hung around for the ninth to close the game out.
Utility infielder Sheldon Neuse pitched–I should say lobbed–the top of the ninth for the disheveled A’s. He retired the side in order, all the outs coming on flies to the warning track. The green and gold will try to salvage a win out of this series tomorrow at 12:37 when they send Frankie Montás (3-7,3.53) to the mound to duel with the M’s Robbie Ray (6-6,4.25).